This starts as a reaction to an article my Facebook frienemy posted, but kind of turns into frustrated brain purge later. I wanted to save it anyway, so bear with me, Reader.
My Facebook frienemy has been posting about stuff lately that generally falls into the “atheists are just in denial of God” variety. Essentially that those that deny the existence of God actually DO think/know God exists, but do not want to submit to His rules and therefore just deny his existence to get a pass on having to be compliant. So there are no “honest atheists” just people in denial.
I feel like I can raise my hand as an honest atheist.
I don’t believe I have ever felt there is a God. I’m not sure I even ever believed in a literal Santa Claus. I was not raised in a Christian, churchgoing household. My parents raised me with morals – I’d say the Golden Rule figures prominently in my moral upbringing – and with strong ethics, but they were not religiously based. I think I grew up believing in a Heaven of sorts, and maybe even a Hell, but the rules for going to one or the other weren’t Christian in nature, but generally moral and ethical.
I would say, though, that I have a segment of my mind open to the possibility of God, just as it is open to the idea that we are life seeded here by extraterrestrials. There’s not really tactile evidence, but it’s an interesting idea.
The article he posted (linked above) quotes John Calvin, who postulates out that our minds are imprinted with the idea of God, and we can’t help but see God all around us in the wondrous world that we inhabit. This could be a way of saying that humans are wired for God.
But even those who aren’t churchey types can be caught tossing around ideas that are a little like God (some all-knowing, guiding power) – things like “the universe” telling people things (which are more likely based on coincidence or pattern recognition), or calling something “fate,” or even just recognizing an interesting coincidence or change in plans that turns out well and calling it out like it was “meant to be.” In the hippy-dippy, everything-happens-for-a-reason sense, that’s a bit like God. Does that count under the mantle of being wired for God? Does it just boil down to our minds’ propensity to recognize patterns and ascribe them to some invisible force if a tangible force can’t be found or explained?
A quote he posted earlier mentioned that a denial of God is not rooted in lack of evidence, but due to man’s resistance to accepting his need for God. But what, in that context, is God? Does it mean a literal world-maker and rule-setter? Does it mean a general “force for good”? Does it simply mean something to believe in?
On the face of it, just saying that man/humankind needs a creator to set rules, could maybe be true in a way. Rules govern societies – they define them and help keep them running in a certin way. But must they come from that invisible source? And must they remain ever immutable? And which rules? Regarding Judeo-Christian beliefs, there is much contest over what rules are laid out in the Bible and which are the most important to follow. Other religions have sects that differ in their interpretations as well. Which does one choose?
From my outside perspective, all these things make little sense. So, by Christian rules, I must submit and humble myself, on the assumption that an invisible person sacrificed his son for my spiritual benefit, because if I don’t I am spiritually lost, and won’t go to heaven/have life everlasting, and so forth. Coming into this cold, and without some impetus for my believing in God, it doesn’t make sense to me at all. It looks like adopting a set of rules arbitrarily.
There’s a handy catch to all the “atheists are in denial” talk, too – it implies, or outright says, that atheists are delusional, arrogant, and self-centered, because they’re denying the truth they know in their hearts/minds for selfish, willful reasons. Normally atheists are the ones to call the religious delusional, and it’s being turned back on them by believers (No, YOU’RE imagining everything! No YOU are!). So if you’re a religious person in a position of doubt, you’re going to be hesitant to explore that doubt, because it is portrayed as inherently bad, and rather sounds as though being atheist turns you into a bad person. You don’t want to be a bad person, do you? Better not even think about applying any logic, or interpreting something in a different way.
I just found an interesting webpage titled “Hundreds of Proofs for God’s Existence” which encompasses logic formulas for God – some could be considered valid as one’s personal reason for belief, but many pan out as mockeries of logic proofs. St. Paul looks like the origin of the “atheists in denial” bit; the passage says that those who deny God are fools - the evidence is all around them, so they have no excuse for denying God. Well, yeah, when you’re a committed believer, of course that’s what it looks like!( Some of my favorites in here.Collapse )
When I read what seem like genuinely earnest attempts to provide proof for God, much of it gets very… I don’t know the right term. Metaphysical sciencey? Much goes straight back to the origin of all things – there must have been a force that set all the existence we see into motion, and that force is God. And that the orders in nature we see around us cannot be a result of chance, and require an intelligent designer – therefore, God. The linked list article went this course, and then dove straight back into the universe existing and needing something eternal and outside existence to cause it and OMG, I don’t even caaaaaaare anymore. Other reasons seem very anthropocentric – basically that human existence is better than worm existence, and if existence can be relative then it can also be perfect, therefore a Perfect Being must exist, and that is God. And to even ask whether such judgements are subjective is to somehow prove that anthropocentric subjective judgements exist, i.e. are valid? The very fact that human minds can conceive of God itself is held as proof for God, because only God could have planted that notion in human minds. The very desire for “something beyond” earthly things is also held as a proof for God, as our desires relate to objects in existence that can satisfy that desire. Well, then the Doctor is also real, and so are unicorns and fairies, because I desire their reality! Oh but wait, article says that those things are artificial desires and not as “deep” as a desire for God. Also, if you claim you are already happy (presumably without God), then you are an idiot, or dishonest. Gee, thanks for assuming that. Then this jewel:
17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience
There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Therefore there must be a God.
You either see this one or you don't.
Okay, I take it back, not so earnest an article. "Hey guys! There’s cool stuff! Therefore GOD!" This is followed up by a bandwagon argument, and then Pascal’s Wager, soooo, yeah, started out thoughtful – to the point of being repetitive and boring - ended kinda dumb.
Here’s a really nice page of philosophical thought around God: http://www.philosopher.org.uk/god.h
I guess that the question of “How did everything begin?” and “What is the purpose of life?” don’t occur to me often; when they have, the answer “God” never satisfies me. If God, then what? Fall to my knees and praise it/him/her? Even if an invisible, aware deity started everything and still moves things around, do I have any reason to believe that it/he/she cares that I am worshipping? Aside even from that, I feel like the mental gymnastics I would have to go through at this point to try to believe in God and all its paraphernalia despite all the fucked up shit in the world that belies a benevolent, in-control Creator are nigh-impossible.
Give me terrifying randomness and self-created purpose, anyday. Having someone try to emotionally and intellectually shame me into belief is not something I’m interested in.
P.S. – I realize too, that if I were to believe in a creator, it would be a concept not unlike the one encountered in the Futurama episode “Godfellas,” whose stance was summed up by Bender: “You can’t count on God for squat! He pretty much told me so himself!” A distant entity, who doesn’t seem intensely interested in being worshipped, but may make a small move to grant a prayer if it is heard. That’s about as close as I can get to belief, and it’s inspired by a cartoon.